Post Event Write up – CTC Ainthinai – Rajendra Cholar’s B’Day Tree Plantation Drive cum Heritage Trip on Aug 8,9

Wonderful write up from Mithun:

GKC-
Plantation drive
Last
weekend few likened minds escaped the city grim to celebrate the Great Rajendra
Chola’s birthday and also drive the Ainthinai motto of Tree plantation further.
This being my first 2 day trip with CTC Ainthinai I, was a complete stranger to
this group but was received very well, to my amazement the group was holistic
and each one of them were fully aware of their agenda and were completely
sincere in their effort, this was my after thought about the event. The group
got its complete form at Sholinganallur with one addition at Pondy and was
bustling from the start, there was never a moment of silence in the bus and
people got to know each other without any formal introduction (this happens
only in CTC) and I interacted with almost everyone in the group during the
course. I silently observed that there were 2 couples in the group, a college
kid and her mother (a house wife), a senior citizen, three young ladies and few
men with the free will to be the change, and then I thought to myself what a
combination is this ?? Yet the conversations were perpetually free flowing and
besides which I managed to sleep.

We
reached Udayanathham the next morning, quickly refreshed, had tea and started
off for tree plantation, we planted around sixty saplings at three beautiful
Government school locations and the more refreshing sight was the smiling Kids,
which I think is a perfect reflection of their stress less life and I could see
how quickly it spread among our group as the children grew fonder with us and
helped us with the plantation. I learned from a shopkeeper that the two main
sources of Income in the village were weaving and agriculture though we were
all happy seeing the kids I had this strange feeling that their lives could be
much better because I felt the kids need more equipped education facilities to
progress and safeguard their production capacity ,having these thoughts in my
mind our group and the kids completed the plantations and took pictures and some
of us couldn’t resist to jump into a nearby pond for brief cool swim and later
assembled for drinks and after which we started for lunch. After lunch we had a
quick clean up time and moved on for sightseeing, our next agenda.

We
started our heritage visit with Maligaimedu which is believed to be a part of
Raja raja’s Palace remains which was excavated in recent years, I felt lucky to
stand in a place where the greatest kings of our country lived and wandered
around. We then started to the visit the Grand temple built by Rajendra Cholan.
The
Temple
So
grand was the sight that my soul surrendered to its might!!

I
was able to feel the pride that Rajendra Cholan felt after raising a monument
for his faith which now speaks his legacy as we were very lucky to have Anand
and Siva among us who shared all their expert knowledge on studying the
architecture, stories of Rajendra’s Valour ,devotion and the beliefs of Hindu
religion and the exploits of the adhi yogi “Siva”. We all started sharing our
own thoughts after the walks around the temple which turned to debates on power
of Cholas, beginning of time , evolution of Hinduism , oldest religion etc then
we realized that our understandings and beliefs are contradictory and are mostly
based on assumptions as we’ve lost our authentic trail in history which would
base our claims. I think these monuments had stood time only to give us hope as
these are the standards set by our ancestors to show the wealth and capacity
that our soil holds, they tried to constantly remind us to live up to them. Now
we are called people of the third world but when we look at these structures
observe their architectural wonders and learn their history we realize the capacity,
knowledge and technology we had in every field finds no match in any corner of
the world.

The
team that debated
 We then moved on to the Museum where we saw
old Chola coins & seals which are the proofs that Cholas had more
sophisticated administration and monetary systems but due to their decline we
have lost their ideologies in trade and governance and now we heavily model our
systems on our powerful trade partners rules. We also witnessed how did they
record and transfer their knowledge to their future generations through palm
leaf, carvings and metal plate writings, we continued talking and decided to
cook our dinner after winning over some oppositions who wanted to eat at some
hotel and moved to our night halt at Kadambur temple where we had merry time cooking,
playing with dogs, chit chatting and finally had our dinner by mid night
(thanks for all those who helped cooking) and slept peacefully.

The
last day we went to four places we started by visiting the Kadambur Temple , it
is a Swayambu lingam which was formed from a drop of Amirtham and the
architecture was so astounding that the entire temple looked like a chariot .
We then visited a temple which had a tunnel connecting the palace of Cholas
within the Sanidhi and learned from the priest that this was the place where
the Chola king rested, sought counsel, made important decisions and spent most
of his time. Our next visit was to Katumannar Koil Anandheeshwarar Temple, this
is a small but an important temple the walls had inscriptions all over it and
Anand our expert showed us some important inscriptions which read about the
assassination of Athithya Karikala Cholan (Raja Raja’s Brother) and how they
captured the assassins and punished, he said the assassins and their families
were expelled from Chola Nadu for their betrayal. We then headed to the
artistically wonderful Dharasuram temple where the temple and its architectures
were so painstakingly carved out with perfect precision by our ancestors, there
is no inch of rock in the temple that is not carved and decorated there were
many illusionary and mysterious carvings that are beyond our imaginations and
as usual our history enthusiasts Anand and Siva gave many explanations about
the carvings and depictions which the whole group enjoyed with awe. We
concluded our journey by visiting a place called Udayalur which is believed to
be the tomb of Raja Raja Cholan, this place was very simple amidst of a banana
farm with a Shiva Lingam on the tomb it was an emotional moment for me to see
the great Raja Raja resting at peace. It was a great tour starting from his
legacy and ending at his tomb, we then had lunch and our small group talk where
we formally introduced ourselves to the group and started off to Chennai with
the satisfaction and inspiration that our ancestors imposed on us with their
mighty temples.

To conclude–
It excited me so much that how like minded people’s voluntary association can
implement change with such ease and be the base in forming a new society
without being deprived of any human emotions. It made me think that this is a smooth
revolution without any struggle or bloodshed because it had the fun element of
an outing with friends, gave a satisfaction of contributing to a serious cause
which would shape and transform the character of each one & the society as
a whole and the heritage visits was so inspirational that it redeemed my hope
to live. Though the trip was about plantation and heritage visit the most
important part was us & how we felt, what we accomplished together and how
we plan to expand .It is our duty to resurrect our culture and traditions and
form societies like our group which is holistically productive by creating
valuable individuals. I only pray and wish we carry forward the attitude and
expand our association and it is so exiting to dream of having a society like
our group.
I
thank the organizers and all the volunteers for arranging and making this trip
a memorable one. Each one of you inspire me and I am so happy that I am a part
of it, let’s continue to have many more happy associations and travels for the
cause.
And
some happy times captured…..

Nobody cried
cheese but you can feel the happiness in this picture.
Awesome write-up from Sandhya:

Around
25 of us started from Chennai on 7th Aug for a weekend plantation drive
cum heritage trip to mark the 1000th birth anniversary of Rajendra
Chola. Little did we know on what was in store for us, as the journey started
with a few silent moments and hushed discussions; And as it was midnight, Ananth
woke up, 😛 and was bustling with energy and an endless mokkai, that sleep
seemed to the last thing one could imagine. That still wouldn’t deter a few
Kumbhakarnas who were snoring in last few seats in the van. Unable to bear the
headache after a point of time, Sahitya and Rathi literally tied their shawls
firmly to cover their ears in their attempt to get some sleep. His services
could have come of some use in giving company to our half dreaming driver, however
he chose to stay in the back seat experimenting the push backs on the seats and
keeping few people awake. Late in the night, aunty and few others also started
their conversations in the front in their attempt to keep the driver awake.

We
reached Jayamkondam in the morning and after a brisk tea and a quick refresher,
we moved to Udayanatham for the plantation. Sun god was all beaming on us as we
reached the school in Udayanatham around 8 and started digging pits and
planting sapling alongside the breakfast. As we finished off a round of
saplings in sports ground in high school, we were joined by the enthusiastic
primary school children. We had ice creams with the school children, after which
the children were all out in the action planting saplings. One of small ones
had his birthday the same day and it was painful to know that he was suffering
from cancer. We sang a birthday song for the small boy and then after a
photography sessions and some more interaction with children, who were very
keen to share few of their stories, the guys went for a bath in a pond nearby,
while few of us came back to the school. Then after a round of paneer
soda/color, we started back to Jayamkondan. We had planted 48 saplings in the
school campus that day and couldn’t plant a few more owing to lack of space in
the campus.
After
lunch, we had another refresher in Jayamkondan, (Of course the guys needed a
fresh bath after all that itching from the dip in pond earlier) and started
with the heritage series on our itinerary.

Maligaimedu:
Our first stop in our huge list of heritage sites planned for the trip was Rajendra
Chola’s palace, a protected historical monument. As we reached the ASI
excavated site, we could see ruins and some brick walls.  As we were checking the size of the brick,
someone from the group added that the bricks in the Chola period came from a
village Sengal medu, which was also in our itinerary. We went to a small corridor
nearby the ruins of the palace, which had various stone markers and idols
collected from the site during excavation. Few people tried to read the
kalvettu and then after observing each of these forms and a detailed discussion
on few, we started to GKC.

Gangai Konda Cholapuram (GKC) Brihadeeshwara
Temple
– As we reached GKC temple, a UNESCO world
heritage monument, Ananth took the centre stage explaining the various forms of
Shiva and the background behind each one of them to four of us, as we saw the
image of each form carved so intricately on the sides of the temple. After
studying the details in the massive Nandi in the front of the temple, we moved
on to the stone carvings on the side walls of the temple.
History of Chandikeshwara
– The sculptures on the side walls of the temple corridor explain the history
behind the emergence of Chandikeshwara, and the reason for this god present in
all temples in closer proximity to Lord Shiva. As the history goes, a young
village boy was upset after seeing a cowherd assaulting cows in his village and
he took up the duty of tending the cows thereafter. And after this happened,
the cows in the village got happier and started yielding more milk than what it
could hold. Hence this village boy made Shiva linga out of sand and used this
excess milk to bath the shiv lingas. As this news spread throughout the village,
his father became angry of his action and stepped on the sand lingas, reacting
to which, the boy cut off the limb of his father. Seeing all this happen, Lord
Shiva gave darshan to him and as the village boy wished, he was granted a boon
that he would always be in closer proximity to the Lord, which relates to the
fact that all Shiva temples show Lord Chandikeshwara shrine facing the linga.
Bhikshatana
– Legend has it that the sages of Tharuka forest became very proud and ignorant
after marrying very beautiful women and Shiva had to take the form of a beggar
to teach them a lesson. Lord Shiva takes the form of a nude beggar and Lord
Vishnu, the form of Mohini as they visit the forest to quell the arrogance of
the sages. The wives of the sages get seduced after seeing the nude beggar and
follow him leaving their husbands. A battle ensues as the shocked sages watch
their wives follow a beggar and finally Shiva reveals his form and the sages
realize his greatness. This story is carved in detail on the side walls of the GKC
temple.
Kanaku Vinayaka – Once
Rajendra Chola summoned one of his ministers and demanded the accounts for the
temple construction. The minister was unable to provide the details at that
time and after praying to Vinayakar, he was able to recollect the details and
provide the accounts to the King. The Kanaku Vinayaka is represented with a pen
on the right hand.
Lingodbhava
–As history goes, there was a challenge between Vishnu and Brahma on who was
superior among the two. Lord Shiva assumed the form of fire and challenged both
to find the origin of the flame (aadhi and the antha). Brahma took the form of
swan and flew towards the sky to find the source and Vishnu took the form of
Varaha and searched in earth. The representation of Shiva in this column of
fire in front of Brahma and Vishnu, is carved in stone, as the Lingodbhava.
Ananth added that Thiruvannamalai
(a panchabhoota stala – fire)
signifies this column of fire.
While neither of them were able to find the source of the flame, Brahma is understood
to have lied to Vishnu that he saw the origin of the flame as he flew to the
top. Lord Shiva got enraged with this lie and cursed Brahma that he would never
be worshipped in temples in earth. This explains why there aren’t any temples
dedicated to Brahma in Tamil Nadu.
Additionally
we saw and discussed various other forms of Shiva and other gods in the GKC
temple corridor – Sankaranarayan, Nataraja, Gangadharan, Aalinganathar, Ardhanareeshwar
and various dance postures of Shiva, Dhakshinamurty, Saraswathi, Gaja Laskhmi,
Durga and other goddesses. Chola art work has always amazed many on the
engineering and the manpower involved in their construction.

The massive four armed Dwarapalakas
caught our attention as we took a closer look, we could see a giant elephant
appeared so puny and was swallowed by a serpent, which in turn was twisted
around the mace of the dwarapalakas. We amazed by the
creativity of the Cholas to visualize and convey the greatness of the god with
the massive structure of the door keepers. And as we walked in someone
explained about the three forms of gods – Siva (round), Vishnu (octagonal) and
Brahma (square) present in one Shiva linga. This temple has the biggest
Shiva linga among the temples in South India and after darshan, we were
observing the art work inside the temple in detail – The bhoota ganangal,
various nayanmar stories carved on the walls. Someone in the group also added
that the Shiva linga in Thanjavur Brihadeeshwara is regarded to have a
masculine form and the one in GKC has a feminine form.
As
we walked in front, Ananth showed us the Navagraha which was carved out of a
single stone in the shape of lotus. Then we checked out the Simhakeni and
Mahisura Mardhini shrine and waited for Siva and rest of the group to arrive as
Ananth, Naga, Vinod, Mithun and Ranga sir had some serious discussion on
evolution of Tamil and the missing civilization and various myths and facts
related to it. After a long time, the rest of the group joined up and we took
some group photos and started to the next stop after some tea and ice creams.
Ranjendra Chola Museum at GKC: We
reached the museum and checked out the photographs of various idols that we saw
in the temple. Coins, weapons, carvings, maps and many other items in the
museum were the proof of the legacy of the Cholas and they have passed on their
legacy across generations among Cholas and Chalukya Cholas by conveying a lot
of information in inscriptions and carvings.
Finally
we moved towards Kadambur and as one group in car went on to buy items for
cooking. We reached the house where we had to spend that night and relaxed
there in swing, went on a walk in search of ghosts and helped out ourselves with
some snacks until the cooking items arrived. As soon as Manoj, Vinod and Siva
arrived, one group was actively preparing everything for the vegetable rice
while few of us started a round two of the discussion on myth and facts of
evolution, Mahabharatha and many other things. Vinod added that an alien
spaceship was retrieved in 1940s and the technological advancements over the
years is just a reverse engineering of an older era. And as our discussion went
on, the biryani was ready and then we had our dinner and slept.
          
We started the next day with a visit
to the Kadamdur Amrithakadeshwarar temple. 
Mel Kadambur Amrithakadeshwarar
Temple:
The temple is built in the form of a chariot
depicting an interesting story. As the history goes, devas churn the ocean and
get the nectar but they start consuming it without worshipping Vinayakar. So, Vinayakar
takes the nectar (Amrut)  pot (Kada) with
him and while passing through forest, a drop of it falls in the Kadamba forest
and becomes a Swambu linga, which is worshipped here as Amrita-kada-eshwarar.
Later, devas pray to Shiva and Vinayaka and get back the nectar pot.  As the mother of devas, devamatha was
worshipping the swayambu linga every day, Indra decided to change the temple as
a chariot and drag it to deva loga, however Lord Vinayaka steps over the
chariot and grounds it. The story has been recreated as a stone structure by
the earlier Cholas (Kulothunga Chola) and the structure is shown to be slightly
slanting with one wheels of the chariot buried partially in ground. The entire
temple structure has the stories of all the nayanmars in one layer of stone
(among all 18 layers) and various forms of gods of goddesses. Intricate sculptures
of Ardhanaresshwarar with Nandi, Bhairavarar, Suryan, Vishnu, Murugar, Dhakshinamurthy,
Gangadharan, Aalinganamurty, Mahisura mardhini and carvings with the stories of
many other gods and goddesses, lion attacking an elephant, etc can be observed
all through the temple structure in other layers. As we were checking out a
carving which seemed to depict a massacre, Ananth added a lot of information of
how religion conversion was in practice in those days and the carvings shows
how Cholas defeated the jains and tortured them when they didn’t convert to
Saivism after they lost the battle to Cholas. After approaching the Navagraha
shrine, Ananth showed us the stone carving on sides of Indra idol depicting
what appeared to be an elephant delivering a baby and another elephant helping
it out. Then we came across the Kunjithapada Nataraja with Vinayakar and all
other gods seen in a dancing position.

Kizh Kadambur Temple: This
temple was a small arrangement and the Cholas used to worship the linga here
until Kadambur temple was constructed. The side walls of the temples seemed to
have been damaged over the years and only few idols could be seen in the sides.
As we came out, we were greeted by a swarm of butterflies. We had never seen so
much in a small space and the shutterbugs went shooting to their hearts
content.
Next
we proceeded for the breakfast, while four to five of them got down to have the
biryani leftovers and visit the Chengal medu temple, which had the Shakthi form
same as the one in GKC temple.
Sengal medu Mahisasuramardhini: Mahishasura
mardhini with ten hands seen killing the
demon same can be seen here. Only 4-5 who had the biryani made a silent
visit to this place 😉
After
breakfast and ice creams, we proceeded to the Kattumannar temple. The temple
was about to close and the temple priest opened the doors as we reached the
temple.

Kattumannar Anandheeshwarar
Temple, Udayargudi:
One of the oldest temples in the
history of Cholas in the times of Paranthaka Cholan. Veera Narayana Eri which
is closer to this temple also has a mention in the Chola history. We paced
through the temple as it was nearing its closing time and Ananth showed us an
inscription which details the assassination of (Adithya) Karikala Cholan, Raja
Raja Cholan ordering the punishment for the conspirators (Ravidasan) by
ordering them to leave Chola nadu before sunrise of the next day along with the
entire family. What followed next was some minor detailing/discussion about the
Chola family hierarchy and sons of Sundara Cholan.

Darasuram Airatheeshwarar Temple:
We
reached Darasuram at noon time and we had to run across corridor to our bare
feet getting burnt while checking out the corridor. Unlike last time, wherein
we had leisurely spent time in each stone carving trying to figure out the
story, this time we speeded up through the corridor checking out the Chakra,
Buddha carving, sculptures of gods and goddesses, various forms of men and
women dance forms, balancing, various arrangement showing balance of people in
360 degress formation, yogic positions, vali-sugriva combats, an optical
illusion with buffalo and elephant. Few of them like Manoj Kumar were also
posing solo for their matrimony pictures, happy with the fact that there were
p

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